Monthly Archives: December 2013

The ultimate Test – salmon or grayling? part two


Continued from part one…

I made my way upstream to find Jimmy and catch up with his progress… He smiled ear to ear when he heard me describe what I had seen and shortly after that he caught a giant brown trout, larger than the sea trout that I had been unable to net successfully for him earlier. We had no scales however we both agreed it was definitely a double figure fish. This time we made sure of landing it and after a few quickly snapped pictures, we returned it to the now rising waters.

More than 10lbs, this fish is Jimmy's largest brown trout so far - safely returned in perfect condition!

More than 10lbs, this fish is Jimmy’s largest brown trout so far – safely returned in perfect condition!

I witnessed several boisterous upstream runs by giant sized fish, pushing bow waves ahead of them and seemingly oblivious to my presence on the riverbank. I switched back to the fly provided earlier, designed for rapid sinking and bumping along the bottom. It took me four or five casts to acclimatise to the heavy plop and then I started probing the opposite bank, casting slightly upstream and letting the fly work with the current in a slow arc…

Just as my thoughts turned to the effectiveness of this fly’s design, rendering it almost weedless despite having no weed guard, I got stuck on the bottom. Understandable, I suppose, given the pace of the river and the weight of the fly – I raised my rod tip, pulling gently, then harder as I tried to gauge what I was stuck to. Two solid shakes signalled to me that I was actually into a fish, and the fight was on! Mindful of the 6lb breaking strain tippet, I guided the fish towards me and into the current – my 5wt rod traced a perfect hyperbola as my line started to disappear. Having watched videos of sea fishermen handle permit, bonefish, tarpon and GTs, I played the fish off the reel, moving with it as it stayed low and out of sight… Eventually, after more than ten minutes, it showed, not on the surface, but close enough for me to realise this was the biggest fish I had ever had on the end of my line. It was wide and deep, much thicker than my thigh. Just before then, Jimmy had urged me to move the fish in a certain way to gain advantage – when he saw it, everything changed! Now it was a matter of holding on for dear life and working out how to access it – our landing nets were far too small. I said the only option we had was to move towards the end of the beat, into the shallower water where we could handle it and release the fish without bringing it to shore… When we eventually got there, I stepped into the water, eagerly anticipating a good look at this monster fish. The Salmon had different plans. It saw us in the water and changed direction. Far from being tired, it accelerated towards the opposite bank and into the root system of some large trees – when it arrived, it snapped my tippet like gossamer… WOW!

We were fortunate to have the whole river to ourselves - I ran with the giant salmon more than 200 metres downstream in search of shallow water because our landing nets we far too small. When I got there, it reversed, heading across to the deeper water and the trees on the far bank, whereupon it promptly snapped me off.

We were fortunate to have the whole river to ourselves – I ran with the giant salmon more than 200 metres downstream in search of shallow water because our landing nets were far too small. When I got there, it reversed, heading across to the deeper water and the trees on the far bank, whereupon it promptly snapped me off.

Jimmy and I were speechless for a moment, both humbled by what we had just seen… He said “it’s gone!” I said “we would have released it, it is safe now – we released it!” And then we started laughing as we climbed the riverbank, still in awe of the size and power of that fish. When we eventually returned to Jimmy’s rod we had talked ourselves out of an early lunch because the fish were biting too readily and there was a lull in the wind and rain. It was the right decision to carry on, for it was not long before Jimmy’s rod bent double and we watched a silver sea trout treat us to an aerial display. Fresh from the sea, we admired it’s exquisite beauty, took a couple of pictures and returned it. What a day we were having!

Feisty and silver, a freshly run sea trout was the 4th species of Salmonid we caught that day - unbelievable!

Feisty and bright silver, a freshly run sea trout was the 4th species of Salmonid we encountered that day – unbelievable!

After lunch, the rain and wind increased in intensity. Although we continued to catch, floating debris and rising floodwaters provided a different challenge. I played another very large fish for a while, thinking it to be a 10lb salmon, however Jimmy pointed out that it was a huge rainbow trout – as he said the words, it spat out my fly and shot off into the deeper water. I landed a stunning 3.5lb brown trout, similar in size and muscle to my Thames sea trout:

what an honour to catch this beautiful fish - almost identical in size to my Thames sea trout in the summer. Safely returned to the river!

What an honour to catch this beautiful resident brown trout – almost identical in size to my Thames sea trout in the summer. Safely returned to the river!

As the light started to fade, we walked back up to the top end of the beat, returning to where Jimmy had started the day off with such flair. Determined to bring his tally to 15, he made cast after cast into turbulent waters, the little island we had walked across now completely submerged… It was not to be – before it got too dark we saluted the River Test, thanking it for an experience of a lifetime and we packed up for the day. I have still not seen a grayling up close and personal, however I am happy to swap this experience for now – there is always an opportunity for grayling on another adventure!

I took a photo of the memorial plaque on the door of Orvis’s cottage – pausing to reflect how proud Mr Edwards would be, knowing that this landmark venue continues to be lovingly maintained and guarded by its custodians and visitors alike. Long may it last. As I finish this blog entry, I wish to thank Jimmy Boyd for the most incredible fishing experience and for his fantastic companionship throughout the day. It is deeply appreciated.

paying respect to the late Michael Edwards

paying respect to the late Michael Edwards

Thank you for reading and here’s wishing everyone around the world a truly special festive season – Merry Christmas! – metiefly

The Orvis Cottage at the ginger beer beat - Kimbridge, River Test. Thank you for the privilege.

The Orvis Cottage at the ginger beer beat – Kimbridge, River Test. Thank you for the privilege.

The ultimate Test – salmon instead of grayling? part one


Hallowed grounds - I heard this described as one of fly fishing's sacred places...

Hallowed grounds – I heard this described as one of fly fishing’s sacred places…

The knowledge I gained through personal experience yesterday is beyond normal measurable value: no amount of preparation, research and optimistic dreaming could predict what unfolded on the famous ginger beer beat… the first cast of the day produced a spritely rainbow for my host and after his third fish in less than fifteen minutes, I graciously accepted his offer of an identical fly… Two casts later I caught and released a beautiful brownie – fit as a fiddle and exquisite to look at in close up. A few more casts with my host’s fly, then we moved on and I switched to a size 16 gold head deer hair nymph – eager to conjure up my first ever grayling take. No bites!

First cast of the day - a spritely rainbow of about 2lbs... Jimmy went on to catch and release 14 fish despite horizontal raindrops and 22mph winds! The island in the foreground was completely submerged when we returned in the evening and all the rainfall in the test valley caught up with us.

First cast of the day – a spritely rainbow of about 2lbs… This would prove to be the smallest: Jimmy went on to catch and release 14 fish despite horizontal raindrops and 22mph winds! The island in the foreground was completely submerged when we returned in the evening and all the rainfall in the test valley caught up with us.

Salmo trutta in pristine condition - well done Mr B!

Salmo trutta in pristine condition – well done Mr B!

my first fish of the Test...

my first fish of the Test…

Fish moved in a way that I have not seen in a wild river…  Chalkstream waters renowned worldwide for their clarity seemed to magnify size and multiply numbers… Could they really be this big?

When we lost count of how many my fishing partner had landed (dare I mention his double figure sea trout that was too large for the net – freeing itself before we could come up with a suitable plan?), we took a stroll to the end of the beat so I could explore the whole territory and absorb one of fly fishing’s most sacred places…

I saw no grayling in the likely spots despite half an hour of drifting my tiny fly through riffles and channels, wondering what the grayling take would feel like. Suddenly my education ramped up a notch: I could only gawk as the “sandbar” that I had been using as a reference point in the middle of the river repositioned itself like a feeding trout does every now and then. My mouth dried and my pulse thumped – this shadow was the size of my leg. Memories of my ‘giant'(1.1kg) rainbow trout from the headwaters of the Nyangombe River flooded back to me: Back then, after an hour of trying every pattern I had, I eventually caught it on a diminutive ‘Bruce’s Bug’ tied by my friend Gareth… My reverie was broken by lactic acid burning in my casting shoulder, suggesting that I had drifted my fly past this leviathan enough times to prove that it was not going to happen soon!

I could not believe the size of the fish I saw slightly upstream of this picture... It only registered as a fish in my brain when the "sandbar"moved like a feeding fish.

I could not believe the size of the fish I saw slightly upstream of this picture… It only registered as a fish in my brain when the “sandbar”moved like a feeding fish.

Thank you for reading – the story continues in part two…

Klinkhamers


Tying a new pattern is always fun, the reward of mini victories when laying down new threads far outweighs the challenge of having to go back and start again. Whilst researching yesterday, I chanced upon an interesting and well written article about Hans van Klinken, Holland’s now famous designer of the Klinkhamer. What impressed me the most is his pioneering approach – he owes his success to veering off the well trodden path and actively experimenting to solve little riddles.

In my endeavours last night, I learnt that materials make a huge difference and being economical with space on the hook helps to get everything correctly proportioned. So far I have only tied five klinkhamer style flies. I realise it will be a while before I perfect my technique however I am pleased with the results and shall put them to the test (literally!) on Saturday.

this style of fly is perfectly designed to exploit the laws of physics... They sit in the surface, semi submerged to imitate an emerging insect... Or an unfortunate terrestrial struggling to reach the shore

this style of fly is perfectly designed to exploit the laws of physics… They sit in the surface, semi submerged to imitate an emerging insect… Or an unfortunate terrestrial struggling to reach the shore

My fishing partner this weekend is a discerning professional so I will be concentrating hard when I tie up some for him this afternoon!

Leaving the posts long for now allows for further trimming at the water's edge if windy conditions require it

Leaving the posts long for now allows for further trimming at the water’s edge if windy conditions require it

As always – thank you for reading

size 14, size 16 and some green larvae in case I need some flies to go deep... The anticipation is building!

size 14, size 16 and some green larvae in case I need some flies to go deep… The anticipation is building!

preparing for grayling


I am almost bursting with excitement at the prospect of visiting some of fly fishing’s most hallowed waters. Regardless of the weather, on Saturday I will be up well before dawn and en route to fish for grayling on the famous River Test.

Although there is no telling what may bite my flies on the day, our main quarry will be grayling and I need to create some flies for the occasion. Gathering advice from some of my veteran flyfishing friends, I received one reply only two words long: SMALL FLIES

Chuckling to myself, I set about researching tried and tested patterns on the Internet. Various nymph patterns, freshwater shrimps and small Klinkhammers – that is what I shall be tying tonight.

Size 16 barbless hooks
Olive hackle
White Antron post
Two shades of olive embroidery thread
Peacock herl

No pictures yet as I haven’t made them yet – fingers crossed they come out well!

Thank you for reading, I look forward to your next visit.

once in a blue moon…


Last Saturday we visited Orvis – at their newly opened flagship store on Regent Street. True to my high expectations, they have created a fine space, befitting of their core values, their trusted brand and exemplary service. Silver Birch tree trunks bring the Great Outdoors right inside, wooden fittings and tasteful decor sumptuously punctuated by stylish apparel and accessories lead shoppers through to a full range of fishing rods. A floor to ceiling bank of fly tying materials on the left hand side, lots of well crafted flies, literature and DVDs to the right, then follow round to spacious fitting rooms.

Jimmy Boyd and his team bustled about, expertly navigating the fine balance between ensuring everyone was catered for and affording them the space and time to browse and make wise choices. My Darling discovered and treated me to a much coveted DVD – click on this link for the award winning clip http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A4pOOMpFW_8

...the title says it all!

…the title says it all!


The story from 2009 is one that has fascinated me for some time now: once per decade a population explosion of mice in New Zealand’s most remote hideaways causes strange behaviour amongst a variety of underwater giants. Now a global phenomenon, On the Fly Productions has been lauded for their filmography: majestic landscapes and breathtaking underwater sequences make this a visual feast for fly fishers and non fly fishers alike. Definitely a wonderful treat if anyone is still looking for a last minute, fully worthwhile stocking filler.

Who knows how many times my copy will be watched and studied during winter nights as I indulge in my love of the great outdoors from the comfort of my living room…? If you have already seen it, or if you have caught trout in New Zealand I would love to know your thoughts – please drop me a comment below.

Thank you for reading, I look forward to your return!

winging it


I spent time this weekend practising my techniques for tying matching wings… Whenever I see a perfectly symmetrical, well proportioned pair of wings on a fly, I understand the effort put into mastering the tying method used to deliver such a result.

green machine - what will the sea trout make of this next season?

green machine – what will the sea trout make of this next season?

Matching slips must be cut from opposite halves of a symmetrical feather, then they must be perfectly aligned above the hook and bound in such a way that they flare symmetrically, or kiss together above the shank of the hook. It is tricky to achieve and, as I have discovered, even more of a challenge when downsizing to small flies.

This tail feather from an adorable ring - necked parakeet is ideal for snipping off matching wing components for small flies. Similar properties are found in pheasant tail feathers and any bi-laterally symmetrical feather.

This tail feather from an adorable ring – necked parakeet is ideal for snipping off matching wing components for small flies. Similar properties are found in pheasant tail feathers and any bi-laterally symmetrical feather.

For matching wings, I find it best to use a pinched loop pulled straight down over the carefully placed pair of wings… Tighten the wrap firmly whilst maintaining the position of the wings – avoid being timid as tightening too slowly often results in the wing fibres being pulled out of alignment.

I tried to create matching tails and matching wings... These are tied on size 16 barbless hooks .

I tried to create matching tails and matching wings… These are tied on size 16 barbless hooks .

For upwinged style flies, tie in the matching wings facing forward over the eye of the hook then fold them back and wrap them with a couple of neat, evenly tensioned figure of eight loops… Practice makes perfect!

upwinged style - I tied these for my winter season debut at the start of October

upwinged style – I tied these for my winter season debut at the start of October

Different materials can be used for tails, depending on the occasion. In this instance, I am grateful to Mitchi for discarding two elegantly proportioned whiskers! We make a great team – she loves eating part of the proceeds every time I bring a trout home from the lake.

natural is often simple... and a rather tricky  look to achieve!

natural is often simple… and on a size 16 hook, a rather tricky look to achieve!

I look forward to many hours of practise to improve my winged techniques – hopefully in time for next year’s mayflies at the start of summer.

Thanks for reading, see you again soon!